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Masters of Special Education with Academic Instruction Certification

Graphic Organizer - Topic 30

What is it?

A graphic organizer is a visual representation of text elements or text structures, ideas or causal connections. Story elements from text are placed in graphic shapes, one per shape such as circles or squares. Arrows show direction and connections between each of the story elements. When viewed together these elements show the basis for understanding the story. These elements might explain the order of events of a story, or all the elements involved in the story such as setting, characters, and plot. The visual map of text elements supports the student in understanding relationships between story elements and causal order of events.

Why is it important?

Research suggests that graphic organizers may improve the content and quality of information children report even after a significant delay between exposure to information and the oral reporting. Helping students gain explicit knowledge of text structures may improve their conceptual knowledge that supports their understanding.


Robinson, D.H. & Kiewra, K. A. (1995).  Visual argument: Graphic organizers are superior to outlines

in improving learning from text.  Journal of Educational Psychology, 8(3), 455-467.

Kim, A., Vaughn, S., Wanzek, J., & Wei, S. (2004).  Graphic organizers and their effects on the

reading comprehension of students with LD: A synthesis of research. Journal of Learning

Disabilities, 37(2), 105-118. Doi: 10.1177/00222194040370020201

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